Wine VS. Weed: The Health Index of Two Different Intoxicants
Driving along Anderson Creek Road outside of Talent offers an insightful glance into Southern Oregon agriculture: aging pear orchards yield to new homes, vineyards, and more recently a pot farm (behind high fences) and a hemp farm (wide open, looks like little Christmas trees, smells like pot!).
The celebration of wine as a taste to savor, a religious ritual, and an intoxicant appeared in the earliest human civilizations. From ancient Rome to the Bible in the distant past, to the romantic poets and modern day filmmakers (including local boy Jackson Myers’ two tributes, Somm and Somm: Into the Bottle), we have enjoyed and sung the praises of wine. Wine has a reputation as a digestive aid, an invigorator, and a sleep aid. (Wine is actually not a great way to induce sleep!) More recently wine has been praised for heart health and longevity; adults are free to study, debate, celebrate, and openly enjoy wine. Although open to debate, it’s probably safe to say that moderate drinking can be part of a healthy lifestyle. The caveat is that moderate drinking is one or less drinks daily for women, two or less for men, no binge drinking. Can be, but is not necessary. We will continue to study and learn about wine for the foreseeable future.
Questions about the medicinal value of our newly planted “medicinals” are harder to explore! I certainly believe that individual responses to the intoxicating power of cannabis are highly idiosyncratic. One person indeed may believe it to be an effective medicine for just about everything that ails, and I don’t doubt their experience. While another person may feel anxious, nauseated, or sick on the same dose of cannabis, there is essentially no evidence that the person who hates cannabis is likely to experience any harm. Risk of dependence is about 10% with cannabis but it’s treated as if one mere inhalation could ruin your life. For this reason, it’s a Schedule I drug and very poorly studied.
Every cannabis product contains two biologically active compounds, referred to as THC’s (tetrahydrocannabinoids) and CBD’s (cannabinoids). The variety we call “pot” or marijuana is richer in THC’s, while hemp is predominantly CBD’s. The THC’s are more intoxicating, and most medical applications involve a mixture of both compounds. In my own practice, I have patients who notice improved sleep from compounds higher in CBD’s, but not lacking in THC. In my own home, my dog Cucumber’s thunderstorm anxiety has been greatly reduced by the grocery-store-available CBD (unlikely to contain much if any THC) oil! Other subjective benefits from CBD for anxiety have been widely reported.
The more strictly medical applications of cannabis have yet to be fully discovered. Most well known is probably the case of Charlotte Figi, a young girl whose intractable epilepsy (unresponsive to medical prescriptions) has been almost completely controlled by CBD oil, with no apparent intoxicating effect. Preliminary research has indicated some likely benefit with THC/CBD-agonists (drugs that activate the receptors without coming from cannabis itself—the challenge of the research approval process!) for the neurodegenerative diseases becoming more prevalent as we age: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s diseases, and vascular dementia.
CBD’s are legal throughout the US, and I would encourage individuals to venture into a personal experiment if they suffer from anxiety, phobias, or sleep disorders (whether difficulty falling asleep or restlessness during sleep). Doses are small to be effective, ranging from a few milligrams up to 20-25 mg. Charlotte’s Web is a CBD-producing company based in Colorado, where a portion of each purchase price is devoted to education, research, and to making CBD’s affordable to children in need. We have a lot to learn about the medical applications of cannabis, but the FDA will have to agree with that opinion before regulations are relaxed which make medical research possible.
Check back next month and I’ll talk about the economic complexity of harvest season.
Read more of Dr. Deborah’s healthy insights at www.DrDeborahMD.com.